Millions of tourists visit the Pantheon every year. And the total sum collected in entrance fees? Zero. Visiting the Pantheon is always free. Did you ever wonder why?
Unlike the Forum, Colosseum, Baths of Diocletian and Caracalla, etc., the Pantheon is not the property of the State. It belongs to the Catholic Diocese of Rome–because for over 1400 years, it’s been a Catholic church.
Built in the first century B.C. by Marcus Agrippa, the Pantheon was originally a pagan temple dedicated to all the gods. But when Christianity became the official religion of the state several centuries later, all those pagan temples became pretty useless! Many of them were dismantled for their building materials, which were hauled off to be used in the construction of private homes, Christian churches and other sorts of buildings. That’s why so few pagan temples are still structurally intact; in most cases, just a few stones are left, like the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, seen here. All that’s left of this once huge structure are the front six columns–the rest of its stones, columns and bricks were recycled into newer buildings long ago.
But in contrast, the Pantheon was formally bequeathed by the Roman Emperor to the Pope in the year 609 A.D., when it was consecrated as the church of St. Mary of the Martyrs. That’s still its official name today, and you can attend Mass on Sunday mornings there, just as in any other Catholic church. (Did you know that?) The fact that this pagan temple was being used for Christian worship is what kept it from being dismantled just like all the others. You can thank the Catholic Church for preserving it, both then and now–because all its upkeep and maintenance is paid for by the Vatican, not by entrance-fees. Walk in any time, for as long as you like, as often as you like… and know that you never have to pay a dime.